SKETCH: Impotent Select Committees Aren’t Up to the Job

How do politicians make their servants do what they’re told? In the 600+ quasi independent public bodies – all with different powers, purposes, and appointment processes – how do ministers know enough to penetrate the complexity of it all and make workers work and managers manage in the public interest?

From Railtrack to the Care Quality Commission to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, very many of the state’s functions have been given just enough freedom for ministers, in Kelvin Hopkins’ cynical estimation, “to avoid blame but to retain control”.

These bodies regularly appear in front of select committees. Through a combination of blocking answers, holding answers, smoke, gas, offers to write to the committee, structural abstractions, refusal to answer the question – by the whole panoply of administrative passive aggression – these bodies do not answer to Parliament.

The Public Administration Committee is feeling its feckless way into the question.

Witnesses from the Institute of Government and the University of Birmingham gave every appearance of knowing more about it than the committee, but as most witnesses in front of committees do, they dealt in frameworks, management structures and efficiency gains.

“Aren’t we chasing minnows while the fat salmon swim past untroubled?” Paul Flynn asked (he’s hired a new lyricist). He referred to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority where contracts double in cost, years are added to projects, and the next big bill presented by the American firm running the Authority will be around £93bn – massively, monstrously more than any efficiency savings that could be made by all the other public bodies put together.

He said the KPMG report into the Nuclear Decom record was so thoroughly redacted that all the complaints about management were removed.

This is known. And this is where the action is. Bernard Jenkin’s inquiry is starting well back from the starting line.

Select committees in their current form aren’t up to this great work. They are poorly-prepared, insufficiently co-ordinated, and lack the skills – and often even the will – to nail these wretches’ feet to the floor and beat the truth out of them.

The story continues. Let’s have a look at the BIS committee on Royal Mail, next.



Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Charles Clarke says Cameron is the most successful PM for over a century…

“Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives gained 99 seats. They lost 211 under John Major, gained one under William Hague, quickly and wisely got rid of Ian Duncan-Smith, gained 32 under Michael Howard and have so far gained 133 under David Cameron who, to the great surprise of many (including senior Conservatives), has turned out to be the most electorally successful Tory leader since 1900.”

Top Posts This Week

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.

Facebook

ENVIRONMENT MAYOR TOTTY WATCH: BRAZIL EDITION ENVIRONMENT MAYOR TOTTY WATCH: BRAZIL EDITION
HAIN GRAVY TRAIN HYPOCRISY HAIN GRAVY TRAIN HYPOCRISY
MONBIOT SKINS & COOKS SQUIRREL ON NEWSNIGHT MONBIOT SKINS & COOKS SQUIRREL ON NEWSNIGHT
DAVE’S CARBON BAGGAGE DAVE’S CARBON BAGGAGE
Daylight Robbery: Met Chain Themselves to £216 Billion 10 Year IT Contract Daylight Robbery: Met Chain Themselves to £216 Billion 10 Year IT Contract
Trumps Hair: Toupee or Not Toupee? Trumps Hair: Toupee or Not Toupee?

BURNHAM BLOWS DOG WHISTLE LINE BURNHAM BLOWS DOG WHISTLE LINE
DCMS FUN POLICE CALLED OFF THE CASE DCMS FUN POLICE CALLED OFF THE CASE
NEW PEERAGES LIST IN FULL NEW PEERAGES LIST IN FULL
WELSH FIRST MINISTER CONDEMNS STEEL WORKERS WELSH FIRST MINISTER CONDEMNS STEEL WORKERS
MOAT CLEANING EXPENSES SCANDAL MP AWARDED PEERAGE MOAT CLEANING EXPENSES SCANDAL MP AWARDED PEERAGE
CHICKEN TORIES CHICKEN TORIES
1 IN 5 CORBYN SUPPORTERS VOTED FOR CLEGG 1 IN 5 CORBYN SUPPORTERS VOTED FOR CLEGG
CORBYN ESCAPES #LABOURPURGE CORBYN ESCAPES #LABOURPURGE
VOICE OF AN OIL DRILL VOICE OF AN OIL DRILL
Wind Turbines: Subsidised Sun Beds Wind Turbines: Subsidised Sun Beds
FLASHBACK: EVERY DAY SEXUAL SEGREGATION FLASHBACK: EVERY DAY SEXUAL SEGREGATION
Control the Camera on this 360° Crossrail Video Control the Camera on this 360° Crossrail Video
Flashback: Labour Leader Vote Hijack, Could Rivals Do a Balotelli? Flashback: Labour Leader Vote Hijack, Could Rivals Do a Balotelli?
Andy Burnham Everyday Sexism Andy Burnham Everyday Sexism
Burnham Threatens to Quit Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet Burnham Threatens to Quit Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet
GORDON DOOMS YVETTE (?) GORDON DOOMS YVETTE (?)
MPs’ Deleted Tweets Twitter Don’t Want You to See MPs’ Deleted Tweets Twitter Don’t Want You to See
Corbyn: ‘I Don’t Support Putin, But…’ Corbyn: ‘I Don’t Support Putin, But…’
Foreign cash funding In campaign should be illegal Foreign cash funding In campaign should be illegal
Corbyn v Train Jihadi Corbyn v Train Jihadi
JEREMY CORBYN EQUATES ISIS TO US MILITARY JEREMY CORBYN EQUATES ISIS TO US MILITARY
MILIBAND’S TRIBUTE BEARD MILIBAND’S TRIBUTE BEARD
CORBYN AT PMQS CORBYN AT PMQS
JEREMY CORBYN’S SENSIBLE JUMPER ADVICE JEREMY CORBYN’S SENSIBLE JUMPER ADVICE